Heat Exhaustion in Dogs


Heat exhaustion (or “heat stroke”) is an unfortunately common presentation at veterinary emergency clinics in the summer months. It is essentially when the pets body has been pushed to a hyperthermic state for an extended period of time, to the point where their bodies cannot thermoregulate to correct the internal temperature.

As dogs do not sweat like humans, it can be very difficult for them to cool down on hot days. Heat exhaustion can range from mild cases, where full recovery is possible within a few hours, to severe cases where permanent organ damage or death may occur.

It can be caused by many things, the most common being overexertion and/or being left in a hot car. Older dogs and dogs with thick coats are obviously also more susceptible to heat exhaustion.  

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Excessive panting
  • Bright red gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Ataxia (walking with a “drunken stumble”)
  • Loss of consciousness

What do I do if I suspect my dog has heat exhaustion?

  1. DO NOT IMMERSE DOG IN FREEZING COLD WATER (this can cause them to go into shock), wet towels with cool water and drape them over your pet, offer them a cool bowl of water
  2. Head to your local veterinarian for assessment

How do I avoid this?

  • Do not exercise your dog on hot days, or take advantage of the early morning/late night cooler temperatures
  • Take extra precautions for dogs that are: older, obese, brachycephalic (Boston, Pug, Bulldog, Boxer, etc), suffering from respiratory or cardiac conditions, etc
  • Have cool water readily available
  • Have shade readily available
  • Never leave your dog in a parked car
  • Never muzzle dogs on hot days

Written by Caitlin Johnston, RVT